Many of the homes on the 2016 Spring Parade of Homes in Kansas City are built by second and third generation homebuilders. Home building is typically a family business, but what does it take to pass the baton from one generation to the next? Two Kansas City home building families shared the secrets of their success with the Home Builders Association of Kansas City.
Riffe Homes and Development, owned by Jim Riffe, represents the third generation of development and home building for the Riffe family. Winston Thompson began in 1955 by building a home for his brother and developed several subdivisions in the Waldo area in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Thompson’s son-in-law, Hank Riffe, started Riffe Construction in 1960. Riffe Construction built more than 1,000 homes, primarily in the South Kansas City suburbs. So it was no surprise to anyone when Hank’s son, Jim, launched his own development company in 1985. Riffe Homes has developed dozens of mostly high-end subdivisions in Overland Park, Leawood, Lee’s Summit and Greenwood, Mo.
Jim Riffe said while each generation was inspired by the work of their fathers, each son (or son-in-law) was responsible for starting and running his own enterprise.
“The family secret has always been that each person had their own company and did not work for the other. We’ve always supported each other and receive coaching from the generations above but, once we started building, we took our own risks,” Jim Riffe said.
Attention to detail and pride in quality workmanship seems to run in the Riffe family blood, according to Jim. But respect and awareness of the large financial risk and responsibility to employees, contractors and customers is a big theme as well.
The Riffe family’s influence in the local homebuilding community continues to grow. Jim’s younger brother Jeff is busy growing his own homebuilding company, Riffe Custom Homes, on the Kansas side of the state line.
“This is a family that has committed itself to providing new quality homes to the families of greater Kansas City for decades,” Jeff Riffe said. “(My great-grandfather) John Riffe was selling homes when Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, and Winston built his first home when Dwight D. Eisenhower was in office. They survived inflation, recessions and depressions and never lost a business or left their business. Through it all, they never stopped.”
Riffe Homes has one entry in the 2016 Spring Parade of Homes – a reverse, 1 ½-story, four-bedroom home in Lee’s Summit priced in the $690,000s.
Bickimer Construction was founded in 1982 by Tom and Mary Bickimer. Tommy attended Colorado State University where he received his bachelor’s degree in construction management. After graduation, Tommy cut his teeth in the construction and contracting business away from the family business, working for international general contractor Sundt Construction. In 2005, Tommy returned to Kansas to run the day-to-day operations of Bickimer Construction.
“We are very much a family business. My sister Kristen and brother John are also involved with Bickimer Construction,” Tommy Bickimer said. “We take pride in our name and what our parents built, and we work hard every day to preserve the legacy of quality built homes combined with top-notch customer service.”
The next generation strives to retain the core values that their parents built into Bickimer Construction while evolving with the times, particularly when it comes to marketing and sales.
“We have put a strong emphasis on marketing through social media and our website,” Bickimer said. “It’s a good way for our buyers to stay in touch with us and potential buyers to see the new features we are adding to our homes.”
The company’s motto is “Building dreams on a solid foundation.” But Bickimer said for this second-generation homebuilding company, it’s more of a mission.
“We are not a slap-it-on-and-go company,” he said. “We adhere to excellence, not sloppiness. Buyers should expect nothing less when entrusting a Kansas City homebuilder with the single biggest investment in their lifetime.”
Bickimer Construction has five homes displayed on the 2016 Spring Parade of homes – three in Overland Park, one in Shawnee and one in Olathe. All homes are priced in the $400,000s.
Spring Parade of Homes
Presented by the Home Builders Association of Greater Kansas City
When: Now through May 8.
Hours: Open daily 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
More information: Pick up your Parade Guide at the Home Builders Association (I-435 and Holmes Road) or at any of the 347 Parade homes in the metro area.
Online: Search online at www.kcparadeofhomes.com